700MHz spectrum winners detail plans

Verizon and AT&T plan to use their spectrum for high-speed 4G networks, while Qualcomm will use its winnings to expand its FLO TV service

Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Qualcomm -- three of the biggest winners in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's recently completed 700MHz auction -- have announced plans for the spectrum they've won, with two of the companies focused on expanding their wireless voice and data networks.

Verizon and AT&T will both use the spectrum for high-speed 4G (fourth-generation) wireless services.

Qualcomm won eight spectrum licenses in the 6MHz E block, including spectrum covering the Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, and Philadelphia areas. The company will use that spectrum, which cost $554.6 million, to expand its FLO TV service, which offers video over mobile devices. Qualcomm now offers FLO TV to areas containing 68 million people, and the new spectrum will allow the service to reach 130 million people in the U.S., Qualcomm said.

The E block licenses will allow Qualcomm to deliver more video content over FLO TV, Qualcomm said. Qualcomm also won three 12MHz B block licenses, at a cost of $3.5 million, near three Qualcomm research and development centers in California and New Jersey.

The FCC auction of spectrum in the 700MHz band raised more than $19.1 billion for the 1,090 spectrum licenses sold. The spectrum will be available to winning bidders in February 2009, when U.S. television stations must abandon the spectrum and move to all-digital broadcasts.

Verizon Wireless was the winning bidder for a nearly nationwide block of spectrum, the 22MHz C block, plus 102 licenses for individual markets around the country. Verizon did not win the Alaska portion of the C block. Verizon will pay nearly $9.4 billion for the licenses, it said in a press release.

Verizon will use the spectrum to deploy a wireless data network using the LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard, it said. The company announced plans for an LTE-based network last November, and it plans to launch an LTE network in the 700MHz band in 2010.

The 22MHz C block "provides a speed and performance advantage that will be ideal for connecting a variety of consumer electronics, from wireless phones to medical devices to gaming consoles," Verizon said.

"We now have sufficient spectrum to continue growing our business and data revenues well into -- and possibly through -- the next decade, and this is the very best spectrum," Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless’ president and CEO, said in a statement. "This is a wise investment in future data growth opportunities."

AT&T will pay about $6.6 billion for 227 licenses in the 12MHZ B block of spectrum. Paired with 700MHz spectrum that AT&T acquired when it purchased spectrum from Aloha Partners earlier this year, the spectrum will enhance quality and reliability of existing wireless broadband and voice services, the company said.

With the new spectrum, AT&T's spectrum will cover all of the 200 largest markets in the U.S. and 87 percent of the country's population, the company said.

The B block was the "most attractive, most valuable spectrum available, and it was the best investment for AT&T and our customers,” Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T’s wireless unit, said in a statement.